It was a case of what could have been for Gilford Crusaders when they met Loughgall Reserves in the Marshall Cup 1st Round Tie.
Gilford, with Stephen McArdle returning as manager, knew that they faced a hard match in this opening fixture against Loughgall.
Loughgall made the brighter start of the two teams, immediately putting the Gilford defence under pressure. Gilford seemed to be struggling to play as well as they had in the warm up matches, even though they were playing the same system as before.
The constant pressure by Loughgall paid dividends for them in the 17th minute when a moment of slackness allowed them to take the lead through a well struck curling shot from the edge of the box. This goal opened the floodgates and for the next 18 minutes Gilford were punished heavily as Loughgall extended their lead by another three goals.
The boys certainly looked reinvigorated in the second half and started putting moves together which showed how they could play when they put their minds and bodies to the task.
Gilford were now on the ascendancy as passes and moves which didn’t come off in the 1st half now found their mark as they finally put Loughgall under pressure. That pressure was rewarded in the 66th minute when one of Gilford’s finest young prospects broke down the left and his thunderous cross was turned past the helpless goalkeeper by his own defender.
Loughgall were reduced to 10 men when their number 5 was shown a straight red card.
Rather than receiving the boost they expected, a final mistake by Gilford saw them fall 1-5 behind with only 18 minutes remaining.
The deficit was reduced to three when Jamie McGivern, surrounded by opposition on the edge of the box, somehow found they space to swing his right leg at the ball. As the Loughgall keeper signalled that the ball was going over the bar, the shot took a final dip and struck the net with the goalkeeper stranded. McGivern again came closer a minute later but it was, sadly too little too late and Loughgall ran out 5-2 victors.
The next match is at home on Tuesday 18th at 6.30pm against Knockmenagh Swifts in MUFL Division Two.